Monday, November 19, 2012

19th-Century Advice on Boys and Gardens

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The Christian Recorder, August 21, 1890, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Boys and Gardens

By all means, let the boy have a garden, If it be only a bunch of sunflowers in a six-feet square city back yard, let him have something of his own to plant and watch the growing of.

But if you live in the country, you can let him have a considerable plot of ground, where he can raise flowers, and also edible vegetables. Nothing will ever taste so good to him as his own lettuce and beets and radishes.

Don’t imagine for a moment, however, that your boy, unless he be a genius, will know how to take care of these plants of his. No matter how much he loves them, he will require a good many weary hours of careful teaching and training before he is able to do efficiently even his small duty by his garden patch.

The trouble is that boys love so many things. If they loved their garden only, or their lessons only, or ball-playing only, or stamp-collecting only; but it is with them as it is with the perplexed lover – “how happy could they be with either were t’other dear charmer away!” It is a good deal more trouble to see that the boy keeps his garden well than it would be to keep it yourself; but it is a good deal of trouble to bring up a boy right anyhow, and that is something that a mother might as well understand at the outset. Those who try to do it by easy means generally rue it with anguish of soul in the end.

“I never knew a boy who was fond of a garden,” said a wise man who had brought up many boys , “to go far astray. There seems to be something about working in the soil and loving its products that does the boys good morally as well as physically.”

And honest Jan Ridd says, “The more a man can fling his arms around Nature’s neck, the more he can lie upon her bosom like an infant, the more that man shall earn the trust of his fellow-men.” Again he says, “There is nothing better to take hot tempers out of us than to go gardening boldly in the spring of the year.” And every one who has tried this can testify that it is true.

A certain little boy , who left a garden at home to take a trip with some friends, wrote home to his mother,” I am having a splendid time, but I wish every morning that I was sitting on my little green cricket in the backyard, watching my plants grow.” This little boy always thought that some time, if he watched closely enough, he should see a flower open, but beyond a few four o’clocks, he has never witnessed this ever-recurring but magically secret phenomenon.

If possible, supply your own table with your boy’ s produce at ruling market rates, having it well understood beforehand how the money will be expended. Praise whenever you consistently can; offer prizes for the best fruits, flowers and vegetables, if you have several boys at work; and in every way treat the enterprise with consideration and respect. Many a boy who has put his best efforts into his garden loses heart when he hears it sneered at or made light of ” Your garden? Oh dear! I never thought of that! What does that amount to?”

It cannot be too early impressed upon a boy that whatever he does should be done well. Therefore make his garden seem as important as you can without dwelling unduly upon it; and remember that the physical and moral effects of the garden are not all. The information that a boy gets from it concerning a variety of seed and soil may be invaluable to him later on.

Thanks to Accessible Archives.
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